Here’s where we stand as of today (February 25):
- Trump: 82
- Cruz: 17
- Rubio: 16
- Kasich: 6
- Carson: 4
In other words, Trump has a head start of 65 delegates. In order to make sure that he remains ahead after Super Tuesday, he only needs to maintain this head start by one delegate. Suppose Trump wins 280 delegates on Super Tuesday. Then Trump ends the day with 362 (82+280) delegates. And suppose that – per impossible – Cruz wins all of the remaining 344 (624-280) delegates. That gives Cruz 361 delegates. In short, Trump needs only get 44.8% of the delegates available on Super Tuesday to guarantee he’ll have the most delegates after Super Tuesday.
How hard will it for be for Trump to win 44.8% of the delegates available on Super Tuesday? Up to this point he’s been winning 61.6% of the delegates in play, and there are now fewer candidates with which to compete, so my initial thought is: Not that hard. As long as Trump performs 73% (44.8%/61.6%) as well as he has in the first 4 primary states, and he is guaranteed to come out ahead on delegates.
And is there any reason to think that Trump will underperform by such a large margin? Not much, as far as I can see. Trump has a 77% chance of winning Alabama, a 79% chance of winning Georgia, a 43% chance of winning Massachusetts (beating Rubio at 18%), a 43% chance of winning Oklahoma (beating Rubio at 41% – really too close to call) – despite being unable to spell the name of the state correctly – and a 66% chance of winning Virginia. Only in Texas is Trump an underdog. Here Cruz has an 83% of winning with Trump and Rubio each getting about 9%. This last fact is not trivial since Texas has 155 total delegates to pledge.
Suppose that we give Cruz 35% and Rubio 30% of the delegates (giving the larger number to Cruz because of his advantage in Texas) and throw another 5% at Carson and Kasich. The outcome would look like this:
- Cruz: 17 + 219 (=0.35*624) = 236 delegates
- Rubio: 16 + 188 (=0.30*624) = 204 delegates
- Kasich and Carson eat up 32 delegates, but who cares?
That leaves 185 (=624-439) delegates for Trump, and combined with his 82 delegate total coming in, he easily retains his lead with 267 (=185+82). So Trump could come out ahead on Super Tuesday in this scenario by winning just less than 30% of the delegates and coming in behind both Cruz and Rubio in the total number of delegates won. So I think that the probability that Trump will lead in delegates after Super Tuesday is very high indeed.
I admit that the delegate math is a nightmare, but I’m not even going to try to make sense of it because life is just too damn short. If it makes a big difference to my forecast, then I wouldn’t be surprised if someone points it out.
Hope I managed to get the math right this time….
- 7% Ted Cruz
- 5% Marco Rubio
- 88% Donald Trump